Home » SAIL Seminar for Faculty Will Focus on Environmental “Contested Spaces” in Colorado

SAIL Seminar for Faculty Will Focus on Environmental “Contested Spaces” in Colorado

SAIL Seminar for Faculty Will Focus on Environmental “Contested Spaces” in Colorado September 19, 2013
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Environmental issues in the news often involve differing visions of land stewardship. For example, can conservation of water resources and wildlife habitat be compatible with urbanization and development of energy production, mining, and agriculture? Such complex issues are of broad concern, since they can have lasting effects on peoples’ lives, livelihoods, and communities.

The third of ACM’s Seminars in Advanced Interdisciplinary Learning (SAIL), titled Contested Spaces, will engage a group of 15 faculty in case studies of land stewardship in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. Participants will examine environmental issues in depth from a wide range of perspectives, including economic, legal, political, ethical, ecological, chemical, physical, spiritual, cultural, religious, aesthetic, historical, and critical.

The overall goal of the seminar is for the faculty to use the learning, materials, and pedagogical perspectives they gain from their experiences during the ten-day on-site portion of the seminar in summer 2014 to create innovative curricula for multi-disciplinary courses aimed at juniors and seniors at their colleges.

ACM has issued a Call for Participants for Contested Spaces, inviting faculty from ACM colleges to apply as interdisciplinary, three-person teams to participate in the seminar. The deadline to apply has been extended to November 25, and four teams will be selected through a competitive process.

A team of three faculty proposed the Contested Spaces topic and will lead the seminar:

  • Howard Drossman, Professor of Environmental Science and Education, Colorado College;
  • Jonathan Lee, Judson M. Bemis Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Colorado College; and
  • Donna McMillan, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology, St. Olaf College.

The seminar’s on-site portion in Colorado will be based at the Catamount Mountain Campus (CMC), situated on the slopes of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. CMC is an independent biological field station providing access to a variety of areas that will be used for the case studies, organized as short learning expeditions, which will be at the core of the Contested Spaces seminar.

Located near the intersection of expansive prairies and the Rocky Mountains, the Pikes Peak region encompasses wide-ranging biological and physical diversity. At the same time, the area boasts cultural contrasts that include rural, agricultural communities, growing urban areas, and a strong historical presence of mining and energy industries. These competing interests have caused clashes over the use, distribution, and conservation of the region’s natural and built resources.

According to the seminar leaders, a liberal arts approach that integrates perspectives from multiple disciplines, and examines conflicts in a variety of objective and subjective ways, can comprehensively address such environmental issues. This approach — called reflective judgment – provides a path to making and committing to decisions in the face of uncertainty, the leaders have noted, and will be a central focus of the Contested Spaces seminar.

The SAIL project, supported by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is sponsoring a series of five seminars. The first, Considering Animals, held its on-site portion in Washington, DC in 2012 and is now wrapping up as the faculty participants complete their curricular projects and will make them available on the ACM website. Mediterranean Trivium: Earth, Sea, and Culture, the second SAIL effort, completed the on-site portion in Italy this past July, and faculty have begun to work on their curricular projects.


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